allotment sam cleasby sheffield gardening disability

Getting back to what you love – reconnecting with nature

One of my fondest memories as a child is of my nannan’s garden. She grew flowers and plants that were beautiful, but also fruit and veg, I remember eating strawberries with her straight from the ground, our fingers and lips sticky and red with the juice.  My nannan’s garden and home was a place of love and joy, a time spent with all my cousins playing and having fun.  Even now, at almost 91, nan lives in the same house, and her garden is still filled with blooms.  I visit her every week and last week, she was saying how much she wishes she still had the energy to grow her own vegetables, but she is happy just being able to potter and look out on her plot.


When my kids were very small, we moved house to a new area that was much more rural and in our little garden, I started planting fruit and vegetables for us to eat. I had little idea what I was doing but grew easy plants such as tomatoes, peas and herbs. I loved being in the garden and really enjoyed seeing the kids eat straight from the veg patch as I had so many years before.

I love seeing them out in nature, getting dirty and having fun, the veg and plants are my joy, but for them it is just about playing and being outdoors, from mud pies to dens.  It was much easier when they were small to get them outside, now at 15, 13 and 11, it takes a little more persuasion, but once they are out, they get right back into it.

allotment sam cleasby sheffield gardening disability

Since those early days, I have slowly learnt more and more and grown more each year. I’m no expert and still rely heavily on gardening books and the Internet, but I feel so happy in the garden and so I just go with a trial and error tactic. The past 3 years have been tough with me not being physically strong enough to grow anything. I felt that planting things would end up as more work for Timm if I fell ill.

In January this year, I had another big surgery. I had my failing Jpouch removed, a permanent stoma formed and my butt removed.  The recovery was so hard and I couldn’t even bathe myself, I was bed bound and felt so weak.

We were in the middle of buying a house at the time that has an allotment in the garden. A dream come true but during my recovery, it became a source of immense anxiety.  I couldn’t imagine being strong enough to do the basics, let alone to plant and maintain a full allotment!

allotment sam cleasby sheffield gardening disability
It just seemed so unobtainable. I was so physically weak, just walking to the bathroom left me out of breath.  I was in so much pain and I felt helpless, useless and hopeless.

People told me to take one day at a time, to remember that my body was healing but that I would be stronger very soon.  I couldn’t imagine it. I could barely turn over in bed, how would I turn over an allotment’s worth of soil in the vegetable beds?

But I’m so pleased to say that here I am! My allotment is well on the way, with a lot of help from Timm with the heavier work and lots of time of seated planting and gentle, slow work, the garden is looking amazing!

allotment sam cleasby sheffield gardening disability

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far and we had a day in the lotty, it was so hot that I was in shorts and a bikini top. It’s quite private so I wasn’t worried about being overlooked, but as I worked away, I looked down at my bag and it made me realise just how far I have come.

allotment sam cleasby sheffield gardening disability
I am certainly not at full strength, my recovery is still continuing and I am still having some pains and niggles. I am being careful, I don’t push myself too hard and I listen to my body. But I am here doing it! It feels amazing and it makes me celebrate how far I have come.

allotment sam cleasby sheffield gardening disability

Four months ago, I was bed bound and could do nothing for myself, today I am up and about, getting stronger each day and making sure that I am doing the things that make me happy.

I’m being careful but I’m dog walking, I’m gardening, I’m spending more time outside in the fresh air and this is helping not only my physical health, but my mental and emotional health too.

allotment sam cleasby sheffield gardening disability

If you are struggling right now with poor health, just remember that things won’t always be so tough.  We have bad days, bad weeks, bad months even, but on the good days, we need to think about what will make us really happy and aim for that.

I’m a big believer that the outdoors is good for us, we need to try and get out every day.  Be it for 5 minutes sitting with the sun on your face or a walk or run.  It helps a lot when the weather is good, but being in the outdoors, especially woodland and countryside can really lift the mood.

I was reminded of the importance of this, this week, when I felt as though I had lost my kids to their computers and so we switched everything off and spent a day in the allotment.  At first they were grumpy, but very quickly, they started helping out, playing, building dens and more importantly, talking and laughing.  We are all so reliant on computers and phones, sometimes you just need to disconnect and reconnect with nature and family.

I know that can be easier said than done but today, if possible, turn off your computer, go outside and get back to something you love.

Sam xx

5 replies
  1. Karen mellor
    Karen mellor says:

    Hi there
    I had the same Surgery as you in February following a failed J pouch. Good to see you on the mend.

    Reply
  2. Gail
    Gail says:

    Nice to do a bit of pottering in the garden, no digging yet. I have to recommend better shoes than flip flops though-too easy to have an accident with your toes!

    Reply
  3. Dave Pawson
    Dave Pawson says:

    Honestly Sam. Flip flops, digging with a shovel! No wonder ‘tother half has to do the heavy lifting.
    A light spade and some proper boots and even digging can be pleasurable.

    That aside, yes, just look how far you have come!

    ps Whose chicken did you nick for the photoshoot!

    Reply
    • admintimm
      admintimm says:

      Love my flip flops! I wasn’t digging, I was shovelling soil onto my spud! And it’s my chicken! We have 6 x

      Reply

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